Choosing website translation services
Picture by Retrosupply on Unsplash

Choosing website translation services


Translating your website is important, as it’s a key step in giving you reach to international markets. However, depending on the size of your website, the amount of web content you have, and the number of languages you plan to translate your website into, website translation and localisation can also be a large, complex and costly project.

Once your website is ready for translation and you have decided what markets, and thus languages, your website needs to be translated into and localised for, selecting a suitable provider of website translation services is a key step, as it will have a major influence on the success of your translated website and your return on investment.

Unlike document translation, website translation entails a special set of requirements that go beyond the requirements for ‘normal’ translation services and what many translation agencies offer.

Here are some criteria for consideration when selecting a provider of website translation services:

Translation skills and experience

While machine translation is getting better and, in combination with post-editing, can be suitable for certain situations, the translation of a website should always be done by a human translator. And when I say human translator, I don’t just mean a native speaker, but a professional translator who is appropriately qualified, has translation experience in the language/s chosen, and also has knowledge of the subject for translation. And yes, usually it’s best for the translator to be a native speaker of the target language, but this is not a must. Experience in and knowledge of the subject matter is particularly important, if what you offer on your website is in any way a specialised area. Typical websites of this nature are sites of engineering companies, companies selling new technology or specialised software as well as medical and pharma companies to name just a few.

Part of translation experience is also related to the translator’s awareness of the overall translation process and approach to translation, including research and quality assurance.

Technical skills and know-how

Website translation involves dealing with different file formats and/or content management systems.

This means, a provider of website translation services must be comfortable with information technology, the ins and outs of dealing with different file formats, including website related formats such as XML, html, php as well a document formats such as Word, Excel etc. This is important for the situation, when you extract the web content and send it to your translation provider in file format.

In other cases, you might want a translator to make direct edits in your chosen Content Management System, such as WordPress, so he or she needs to be reasonable technically savvy and understand how that can be done.

In addition, there is the technical knowledge and know-how, most good professional translators will have, such as knowledge of appropriate translation tools, such as for example the use of a translation memory, for a more efficient and consistent translation.

Website localisation knowlege and experience

Localisation is about adapting a product, in this case a website, to the relevant target market, so that the translated website makes sense in the market. 

Your website translation services provider must therefore also have knowledge about localisation and in particular website localisation, i.e. understand that the content, in addition to pure translation, might need other forms of localisation. For example, text length between two languages is often very different and thus might entails some additional requirements during the translation and/or co-operation with the web designer. Also, very often units of measurement have to be localised, i.e. while inches might be an appropriate unit of measurement in the UK, Germans will want to see the same measurement expressed in metres and centrimetres. Another example of localisation of websites are images, which have to be culturally appropriate.

Export market and competitor knowledge

Related to localisation is also need for knowledge about the market that the new localised website is targetting. After all, a website is typically a marketing or sales tool, so the web content needs to make sense in the new target market. This means the value proposition needs to be appealing to the target market audience and focus on the benefits that they would appreciate most and which create differentiation from other local competitors. Indeed, some of the original web content may not be relevant in some markets, and likewise, some markets may need additional web content.

Incorporating market knowledge into the website is important and not typically part of a standard translator’s experience. Depending on the exact situation, this often requires the help of transcreators, copywriters, or marketers in order to ensure proper website localisation.

International marketing knowledge and experience

Last but by no means least, is the need for the providers of website translation services to have good knowledge of and experience in digital marketing, including international SEO (search engine optimisation). After all, the purpose of website translation for new languages is that internet users in foreign markets can find your website, the web content resonates with them, and they feel inclined to follow your CTAs. So, international SEO and international digital marketing experience are key and an important requirement to add to your list of criteria when selecting your website translation services provider.

So, in sum, selecting a provider for website translation services should be done with care and attention needs to be paid to the mix of skills and experiences needed – including not only linguistic skills, but also technical skills, cultural understanding, market knowledge as well as solid digital marketing experience. Thus, just working with a translation agency is often not the right choice, as a multi-skilled approach is needed for proper website translation and localisation.

At Glocafy, we provide professional website translation services for some languages and can also help you select suitable providers of website translation services. Contact us now.

Susanne Dirks

Susanne Dirks is an internationalisation consultant, specialising in website localisation, international SEO and international digital marketing.